The Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six franchise has been around for over 15 years now, and for the most part the experience has been pretty consistent. The game is one of the pioneers of the team-based shooter genre and returns now with Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege, over seven years since the last real entry in the series came out (Vegas 2). Has the formula stood the test of time? We found out by playing the PC version – here’s our review.
Right off the bat, Siege is markedly different from previous Rainbow Six games in that Siege no longer has a campaign for you to play through – instead focusing (almost) completely on the online, cooperative experience. We’ll address this in more detail later, but let’s look at the premise for Siege first. At the heart of the game is an endless series of conflicts between an elite group of operatives and a ground of terrorists – with every situation (or round) revolving around the same basic principles. When you’re part of the anti-terrorism unit, you’re on the attack – and the mission fails if you don’t manage to take down every single terrorist in the allotted time. If you’re part of the terrorist squad, then your task is to either stay alive or kill the incoming elites. In other words – you’re on the defensive.
I’m over-simplifying, because in reality there are more goals that can decide a match. You can liberate a hostage, for example – but the truth of the matter is that most battles end with one of the teams completely decimated. Unless the defending team is caught by surprise, it is often the only way a match can end. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but it makes the outcome of each battle a tad more predictable than you might expect. Part of that is that games like this have movie counterparts that (almost) always end in heroics – the good guys dragging the hostages out after a last ditch attempt to overcome the bad guys. And yes… Rainbow Six: Siege does have moments like that as well, but we would have liked them to be more frequent – now, a lot of battles feel a lot like a classic team death match where the twist doesn’t always shine through.
This brings us back to the lack of a single player (or even cooperative) campaign. This feels like a shame, because the setting and core dynamics of Siege lend themselves exceptionally well to the nail-biting suspense of hostage situations, where thing can turn tense and turn on a dime from one moment to the next. Ubisoft has promised a year of content updated with its season pass though, so perhaps we’ll get more story-driven content down the road. Right now the heart of the game is in its multiplayer modes, although single player content is available as well. This is primarily found in a set of missions that serves somewhat like tutorials series – great for getting yourself acquainted with the basics, but not the dramatic experience that some of the multiplayer modes can bring.
Our favorite dynamic in multiplayer is perhaps the tactical (or planning) stage before every match. As the terrorist/defending unit, you have some time to set up your defenses and get ready for the match. As you’re doing this, the attackers aren’t just sitting in the lobby waiting for the game to start. Instead, they have access to little drones which will explore the area for them – so that they’re familiar with what’s facing them and perhaps even with the location of the main objective. This makes for on-the-fly decision making and planning, especially by the attackers, which is very exciting and makes every match different. It also opens the match up to little tactical moves of deception here and there, because as the defending team you can suddenly shift your defenses elsewhere at the last second, making the attacking team’s tactics suddenly obsolete.
When Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege peaks, it’s amazingly fun and rewarding to play. When it doesn’t, it’s still a fun and well executed multiplayer shooter – but one that doesn’t stand out from the crowd even with its semi-destructible environments. We’re hoping that future content updates will provide more of the standout moments. Until then, this is a game best played with a group of players who know how to work as a team to make sure you get as many of those Hollywood style endings as possible. Or to prevent them.